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Write Your Own Workout: Steps For a Balanced Plan

For anyone who does not currently have a coach or trainer writing your own workout plan can be a daunting task. Fortunately there are steps you can take to ensure that your plan is balanced and can help you reach the goals you want.

The best way to ensure that you will be getting the results you want is to follow a plan. Simply going to the gym and training a body part each day is far to random to yield great results in the long run. However for beginners this approach can produce some results, but anything works for the beginner. As you progress through your training career it becomes more important to approach things systematically to ensure the best results possible. 

Here are the steps that you can use to create yourself a great workout plan in less time that is geared towards your goals.

Step 1: Figure out What You Want

This is the first and most important step. It is where you begin the plan for the upcoming training you are about to create. Some questions to ask yourself may include.

  1. What is my training plan right now? Does it work?

  2. What are my goals? Fat loss, muscle gain, performance, or a mix?

  3. How much time can I dedicate to my training?

With the answers to these questions you can begin to lay the framework for the type of training plan you want to create. For example do not write yourself a 5-day training plan if you can only commit 3 days to training on a regular basis, as you are setting yourself up for failure.

Step 2: Set a Timeline

An important factor in any training plan is TIME. Time is needed to see results. If there was a magical program that could garner meaningful results in days or weeks I would be giving it to everyone. Basically you want to do a whole bunch of training and give it time to work. Some common timelines are.

  1. 1 Program – 4-6 weeks

  2. 1 Training plan – 8-12 weeks

  3. 1 Year Complete Training Plan

The standard timeline for a single training program is 4-6 weeks. This gives you enough time to become good at all of the exercises, add enough weight on them to encourage results, and squeeze every last bit of results out of the training plan before you move onto something a little different. You can link a few of these plans together for 8-12 week programs and have them build off one another. A common recommendation here is start with muscle building for 4 weeks, strength for 4 weeks, and power for the final 4 weeks, over a 12 week period. By organizing your program this way, it allows for each subsequent phase to build on the one before it. It takes more muscle mass to get stronger, and higher strength to get more powerful. Once this is obtained you could easily go back to muscle building and start the process all over. 

create your own workout plan. how to create a workout plan

Step 3: Select Exercises

Here is where most people get confused when attempting to design their own training program. The exercise selection can be a daunting task with seemingly endless possibilities. I think I see a new exercise being performed every time I go to the gym and I have been doing this for 10 years, so it is only fair that someone not involved in writing training programs on a regular basis would find this confusing. In general the best way to ensure that you are hitting all the necessary movements is to include at least 1 exercise from each of the following categories every workout.

  1. Power – medicine ball throws, jumps, sprints, skipping, bounding, hopping, etc.

  2. Push – bench press, db press, overhead press, push ups, chest press, machines, etc.

  3. Pull – chin ups, rows, db rows, row machines, etc.

  4. Arms – curls, triceps, shoulder raises, etc.

  5. Squat – barbell squats, lunges, split squats, squat machines, etc.

  6. Hinge – RDL, hamstring curls, glute bridges, hip thrusts, single leg RDLs, etc.

  7. Torso – Planks, Side Planks, dead bugs, chops, lifts, carries, etc.

As you can see, this is by no means an extensive list of exercises, however it is a relatively extensive list of types of exercises. Just about every exercise you can think of will fall in one of these categories. For the average person I favor full body training meaning that in each session perform at least 1 exercise from each category. For a great overview on this as well as many other training keys check out my book. As you become more advanced you may look to split up all of your movements over multiple days. Finally an important ratio to keep in mind is the amount of push to pull, and squat to hinge movements that you select. Over any given time period these movements should always maintain a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio with pulls and hinges receiving more attention. This helps to prevent overuse in the long term.

Step 4: Sets and Reps

sets and reps for my own workout plan.

So by now you are well on your way to creating your balanced training plan. You have figured out what you want to achieve, set your timeline, and figured out your exercises. The last part is going to be sets and reps both of which will determine the type of training effect that you hope to achieve. In general higher reps and lower sets are used to increase endurance and/or muscle building. While lower reps and higher sets are used to increase strength and/or power. Below is listed some common set and rep recommendations.

Rep Guidelines

  1. 1-5 Reps Per Set = Mostly Strength or Power if Performed Explosively

  2. 5-8 Reps Per Set = Strength and Some Muscle Growth

  3. 8-10 Reps Per Set = Muscle Growth with Some Strength

  4. 10-12 Reps Per Set = Muscle Growth with Some Endurance

  5. 12-15 Reps Per Set = Endurance with Some Muscle Growth

  6. 15-20 Reps Per Set = Endurance

Set Guidelines

  1. 1-3 Sets = Great for Endurance or Muscle Growth

  2. 3-5+ Sets = Great for Strength/Power with Some Muscle Growth

Using the above recommendations you can create endless combinations. For muscular growth you may want to do 1 set of 12 or 3 sets of 8 or even 4 sets of 6. Any of these would provide you with some muscular growth. Varying your sets and reps over time is a great way to keep progressing in strength and size. The body becomes very efficient if it is made to perform the same training over and over again. This is by no means an exhaustive list of set and rep configurations and additional tricks like: rest pause training, tempo training, super sets, and clusters could also be used to keep the workouts enjoyable and effective. 

Final Step: TRAIN

You guessed it, the final step is to actually train. A Training program is only as effective as the time and effort that you dedicate to it. [bctt tweet=”A training program is only as effective as the time and effort that you dedicate to it” username=”dsmstrength”]If you have done your due diligence and chosen exercises from each category in appropriate ratios, selected appropriate sets and reps for the training goals you want then the only thing left to do is work hard. Spending more time training, and tracking what you are doing will further allow you to tweak and modify your program as you figure out what specific things work well for you.

At some point however, to take your training to the next level it will be important to hire a coach. If you are interested in custom programs that will help you reach your specific goals faster, check out my custom performance planning options.


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